White House reacts to Paul Manafort’s Mueller problems

White House reacts to Paul Manafort’s Mueller problems
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders held her first briefing in nearly a month Tuesday, focusing on the Russia probe and new allegations against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (CNN/Pool)

(CNN) – The White House says it’s “confident” that President Donald Trump did nothing wrong regarding Russia during the 2016 campaign.

That comes amid a new report that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In her first briefing in nearly a month, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked several times about the Russia probe Tuesday.

"The president was involved in no wrongdoing. He was not part of any collusion," Sanders said.

But special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has clearly been on the president’s mind.

He brought it up at rallies Monday night in Mississippi, and again in a series of tweets Tuesday, saying in part: "Wait until it comes out how horribly and viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie. Mueller is a conflicted prosecutor gone rogue..."

Those attacks come as Mueller’s team starts writing its report.

"I don't think the president has any concerns about the report because he knows that there was no wrongdoing by him and that there was no collusion," Sanders said.

"Why is he tweeting so vociferously?" a reporter asked.

“The president has voiced his unhappiness from the beginning that this has gone on, this ridiculous witch hunt, for more than two years. Still nothing that ties anything to the president,” Sanders answered.

The White House also addressed several new developments about Manafort, including Mueller’s announcement that Manafort broke the terms of his plea agreement by lying to federal authorities.

“Would the president recommend that Mr. Manafort begin to cooperate, offer full cooperation, to the special counsel’s office?” a reporter asked Sanders.

"We can only speak to what our role is in that process, and not only has the president, but the entire administration, has been fully cooperative," Sanders said.

The Guardian newspaper also reported Tuesday that Manafort met with Julian Assange several times, including in March 2016, around the same time Manafort joined the Trump campaign.

Manafort met secretly with Julian Assange, report says

Both Manafort and WikiLeaks have denied the allegations in the report.

When asked if the Trump administration will request more information on the alleged meetings, Sanders said: “We encourage the process to continue to play out, but I’m not going to get engaged in the specifics of that case … The things that have to do with Mr. Manafort, I would refer you to his attorneys.”

Rudy Giuliani, now working as an attorney for the president, said the Manafort case and the Russia probe have both been on Trump’s mind.

"He's been upset for weeks about what he considers the un-American, horrible treatment of Manafort," Giuliani said. "This wouldn't be happening to him if not for this perverse, overzealous desire to get [the president]."

Giuliani also admitted he’s been in contact with Manafort’s defense team, saying he knew Manafort was “running into problems” with Mueller.

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